The UK’s infrastructure tsar has warned Rishi Sunak that the supply of natural gas to all buildings must stop by 2050 if the UK is to hit its climate targets.
Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) says that the UK gas network must be shut down and billions of ounds should be allocated for a mjor roll-out of heat pumps.
According to The Telegraph:
He is urging the Prime Minister to commit to a total ban on gas boiler sales by 2035, and to set out how the national gas network will be shut down gradually over the next 27 years.
The intervention came as a cold snap sent the UK’s demand for gas surging to a peak of 135 million cubic metres on Monday – the most since February this year and the largest in an October since 2021.
In the national infrastructure assessment, the NIC says heat pumps are the only viable alternative to heat homes en masse and that millions of households should get subsidies worth more than £6bn to encourage their adoption.
It called for £1.3bn a year to be spent on heat pumps for poorer homes and £1.9bn on grants worth £7,000 each for other homeowners to buy the devices. A further £3.2bn a year should be spent on energy efficiency and heat pump installations for social housing, the NIC said.
The assessment dismisses calls for hydrogen to be piped into homes for heating and cooking, arguing it will saddle consumers with massive extra costs.
It says: “Gas boilers need to be phased out and replaced by heat pumps. There is no public policy case for hydrogen to be used to heat individual buildings. It should be ruled out as an option.”
The Government pushed back against the findings, insisting that the gas network would “always be part of our energy system” and that it was still exploring what role hydrogen will play.
Other recommendations in the NIC assessment include a call for cities to ban all vehicles except buses and taxis to cut rush-hour congestion.
The NIC called for the UK to create a strategic reserve of gas, capable of meeting the country’s needs for two months.
This would buffer the country against supply shocks caused by wars or by weather. In 2022, there were 262 low wind days when the nation was reliant on gas-fired power stations.
The assessment added: “To further reduce the impact of such shocks, government should establish a strategic energy reserve to provide resilience.”
The report is a major blow to companies that have been lobbying the Government to promote the conversion of existing domestic gas pipes to take hydrogen into people’s homes for heating.